Thursday, October 12, 2017

Raw Squirrel only 2 WeightWatchers Points!

While tracking the Squirrel Brand Classic Almonds I was snacking on, I discovered that squirrel is a top hit on WeightWatchers, both cooked and raw. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bachelor Bowl

Wild rice, broccoli, and Italian style Tofurky. There's
a hint in the background about an upcoming meal.
Back when I was single and only needed to please myself, I would make basic, three ingredient bowls. Rice or quinoa, broccoli, and some sort of protein like tofu, Gardein [product name], or a vegan sausage of some kind. Sautéed mushrooms would sometimes find their way into the bowl, too.

My wife is on vacation, so I immediately regressed to eating like a single basement dweller again. Tonight's bowl features wild rice, broccoli, and Italian style Tofurky sausages, topped with nutritional yeast and Sriracha. Weight watchers thinks this meal costs 18 points. That seems a little high to me.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vegan Sandwiches at a Tech Conference, Again?

This photo is actually from yesterday.
The second day of Silicon Valley Code Camp was shorter and less heavily attended than yesterday. The vegan Ike's sandwiches still flew out the door, especially when we asked Ike's to remove the Tofurky from the Pee Wee sandwiches. We had learned yesterday that some people who have never eaten meat find "fake meat" just as repulsive as the real thing. The only options we had were Tofurky or "tofu chicken;" there was no meatless (fake or otherwise) alternative. Today there were about a half dozen people who were clearly pleased with the modified Pee Wee.

It looks like this is going to be an ongoing partnership, as my offer to return next year was not rejected.

Vegan Sandwiches at a Tech Conference?

This year the organizers of Silicon Vally Code Camp asked attendees what kind of food we wanted for lunch. I took the opportunity to recommend some vegan options, and they graciously asked me for some guidance. We ended up with over a 140 Ike's Place vegan sandwiches! I helped hand them out and I learned that there are some vegetarians who find fake meat (tofu "chicken," Tofurky) repulsive. So tomorrow we're going to get some vegan sandwiches without fake meat, and hopefully make them happy, too.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Tofu Frittata with Mushrooms

I had a potluck today, on a boat. I have about 1 go-to potluck recipe, it's a quiche from a miso cookbook that I'll post on this blog someday, if I haven't already. There happens to be a quiche-like recipe in America's Test Kitchen's "Vegan For Everybody," but it's called Tofu Frittata with Mushrooms. I was struck with the idea of making this recipe in cupcake format, rather than conventional, big disk format.

I made this before in big disk format. I messed it up pretty royally transferring it from the pan to the cutting board, and ended up with a half-frittata, half-scramble mess. It was a delicious mess, though, with a really good eggy texture without the eggy stink. The recipe turned out really well this time, flavorwise. The cupcake papers were a bit problematic, but the folks who ate them liked them a lot and wanted more. I present the rest of this post as captioned photos.

The frittata mixture spooned in to the cupcake forms (papers? cups?) very easily.
I pushed down on each sizable dollop with a spoon fill up the cups better.

Here the are out of the oven, with only slightly more volume and a darker color. This is after 35 minutes
at 350 degrees. They could probably stand another 5 minute to get a bit browner on top.

... But they look pretty good.

After cooling to room temperature I tore one out of the cupcake paper, maybe because the paper
was so moist. I wonder how this would have turned out with silicone cupcake molds. 

Dosa Brothers' Dosa

I think I have posted more about dosas on this blog than any other food. I'm OK with that. A couple days ago I tried my local dosa place's kitcheree. Today, I got a dosa to show you. I don't have too much to say about it, except that it was delicious. In the first photo you see it slathered with sriracha while protecting a timid scoop of coconut chutney. The other photo is a close-up of it on a fork.

In a box

On a fork
You can get your own from the Dosas Brothers on the corner of Market and Montgomery in San Francisco, on weekdays. Make sure to specify "vegan," because it comes coated with some kind of animal secretion by default.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Vegan Weight Watchers

Sometimes I'm fatter than I'd like to be. At the beginning of the year I hit a personal body weight record. The weight was not from muscle or bowlingballism, it was from fat. I was able to take most of it off in a few months by employing a radical technique called "exercise." Then I got hurt but kept eating like I was exercising, and I now my mass is trending upward again. It's time to turn another radical technique called "eating less."

I first tried Weight Watchers online a few months after quitting smoking a long time ago. It worked really well. If you're not familiar with the program, it employs a formula that ascribes points to everything you ingest. The inputs are calories, grams of fat, grams of sugar, and grams of fiber. The output is a number that you subtract from your daily allowance. Most vegetables are "free," in that they almost always calculate to 0 points in reasonable portions. Foods like ice cream and pizza are very expensive. Eat too many points today? You can earn a few back by taking a long, brisk walk.

I like this system because if you eat a lot of vegetables (or, in my case, force yourself to choke down a lot of vegetables), you don't have do any data entry, because they're "free." When you do eat something processed, there's a very good chance it's already in the Weight Watchers food database and easy to select. Even tons of vegan brands. Worst case scenario, you input the basic stats from the ingredient label and it will calculate the food's points for you. You can then save it into your own database of favorites for easy selection later. In short, it's a super low maintenance system compared to conventional calorie counting.  Want a snack? look at your app. 5 points left? Have a spoon full of sand and a sprig of mint.

I've turned to Weight Watchers a few times since the first time, and each time they tweak their program a little more. Until recently, one aspect of their online program was that their web site sucked. It sucked really bad for over a decade.  When Adobe recently announced that Flash was going to be killed with fire, Weight Watchers finally produced a usable site using sane technology and reasonable user experience principles. I'm too traumatized by past experience to say that using the new site (and app!) is "a pleasure," but it's not constant hell anymore.

But I wonder if the latest version of their formula is buggy. Consider this photograph of a Lara Bar (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough) and a Peet's Vegan Low Fat Apricot Scone. The Lara Bar is 9 points according to Weight Watchers, nearly a third of my daily point budget. I'm shocked by that. It's merely dates and cashews and a few chocolate chips. If a Lara Bar is 9 points, how much could that floury scone sprinkled with sugar be? Ready? 10. One more point than a Lara Bar. Maybe I'm weird but I expected the scone to be much more expensive. It certainly tastes more expensive.

For scale, compare the points one would spend to eat 1,000 bananas: zero. The rest of my blog will be about eating scones and bananas.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Dosa Brothers' Kitcheree

The Dosa Brothers
Happy 3rd day of VeganMoFo2017. I have lowered the bar for the rest of the month: I will publish some words every day. I think that I have far exceeded my own expectations today, as there are also two photographs. I'm sure I'll receive a notice in the mail from VeganMoFo Corporate about violating the theme clause of our agreement. Look forward to more recipes from America's Test Kitchen's "Vegan For Everybody" shortly thereafter.

I was thrilled to see the Dosa Brothers set up their cart a couple years ago on the corner of Market and Montgomery in San Francisco. I love dosas. These guys are vegetarian and they dish out tons of dosa every day. I've consumed about a quarter ton myself since they showed up. They're pretty good, especially for $9. (I would prefer NY Dosas, but he's 3,000 miles away.) That may seem like a lot of money to people who live in reasonable places, but in this town you can't even cast a shadow for less than $3.

The Brothers added "kitcheree" to their menu a few months ago but I never tried it until today. Here's a recipe I just found that approximates the dish. The scoop of crumbly white stuff in this photo is their coconut chutney.

It had the texture of wet stuffing, and the flavors were mild. The temperature was a little low, so I popped it in the microwave at work for a minute. That really opened up the flavors, but it benefited greatly from a generous pour of sriracha sauce.. This... stew(?) is going to be especially good on the grayer Bay Area days coming down the pike. 

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Not just for foodies anymore!
Today I prepared a recipe from America's Test Kitchen's Vegan for Everybody, "Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices." This is the first blog post that satisfies my contractual obligation under the "custom themes" clause of the VeganMoFo 2017 end user license agreement. I am not a lawyer.

Lightning FAQ!
Q. Am I being sued?
A. No.

I was so excited when I learned that America's Test Kitchen was publishing a vegan cookbook this year. This publisher strives to methodically determine the best way to cook something. They will repeat a recipe a dozen times, tweaking minor aspects with each iteration until they are satisfied. They will then meticulously describe the steps necessary for their readers to create the same perfect dish. Here is an illustration of their process.

My large sauce pan is a pot.
Foodies love America's Test Kitchen's recipes. Nothing beats knowing that you have prepared a dish in the best way possible, and sharing this accomplishment with your fellow foodies. If anyone protests or nitpicks your process, you raise your bourbon and wink, "that's how America's Test Kitchen does it." Point goes to the refined gentleman with the drinking problem.

I'm not a foodie because I'm vegan. One can't really prepare or ingest great food unless an animal suffered somewhere along the way. The best foodie experiences involve the least likely parts of the most obscure animals. Like an infant jungle bird served with sauteed bits of its nest. Or squirming cuttlefish. Or exploded goose liver. Offal.

My point is that I always envied the America's Test Kitchen books in foodies' libraries because I knew that they contained the truth about food preparation. It just wasn't the kind of food that I would prepare. Until now!

This quick and easy recipe is solid. While I love following rules, I tweaked a few things and it still turned out great. This is a strong contender for my top 10 recipe list.

Adjustments, hacks, and errors

  • The recipe calls for a large sauce pan. Instinct recommended an 8 quart pot which turned out much better. There are 6 cups of liquid and 1 1/2 cups of dry lentils going in there FFS.
  • The only broth I had is Better Than Bouillon's standard concentrate. It's darker than the chicken-style broth the recipe calls for. I think it turned out great anyway.
  • I added all 4 tablespoons of olive oil at the beginning. I was only supposed to add 2, and reserve the other two for the spiced oil drizzle. So this recipe ended up with 5 or 6 tablespoons of delicious olive oil instead.
  • I didn't rinse the lentils. They came in a hermetically sealed space bag looking perfect, so it didn't even occur to me. This resulted in some initial froth while simmering, but everything worked out ok.
  • I didn't have any dried mint. I actually looked for it at Safeway, slightly skeptical that such a thing could be purchased. It couldn't. Instead, I got fresh mint and put it in a foil-lined lasagna pan and baked it for 10 minutes at 250 degrees F. Turned out great.
  • Only needed a touch more lemon and salt at the end. 
This is a delicious soup. The lentils and onions had a nice bite. The spiced oil drizzle added some dark heat. Will do again.

Thank you, America's Test Kitchen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Out of Retirement And Off The Rails #veganmofo2017

My last post on this blog was nearly six years ago. It was the first part of a series on brewing vegan beer (aka "beer"). I think the second part of this series is still in my drafts folder. I'll spare you further suspense: the beer was really good and it got me hooked on brewing my own! I have not brewed beer since.

I have announced a custom theme!
In a manic bout of web surfing over the summer I signed up for VeganMoFo 2017. I may not have been sober then, but I assure you I'm painfully sober now. So here I am, keeping my promise.

My theme this month is to prepare a daily recipe out of America's Test Kitchen: Vegan For Everybody, a book I'm excited about for a number of reasons. (I really can't wait to talk about it.) The screenshot from the very top of the VeganMoFo Themes page confirms that I have officially committed to this topic. So without further ado, I present to you Scrambled Tofu from the first edition of Isa Moskowitz's Vegan With A Vengeance!


Let me back up. I shuffled into the kitchen this evening while my wife (I married a woman since my last post) was preparing a tofu scramble for dinner. She was "going to wing it," a strategy that made me wince. We have an impending avalanche of cookbooks stacked in the kitchen specifically so that we never have to "wing it." She sensed my discomfort and assured me that she had quickly flipped through an Oh She Glows coobook looking for a scramble recipe, but failed to find one. Fine. This is the kind of suffering you must quietly endure to maintain a happy marriage.

While my daring wife was chopping an onion, some chitchat ensued and we settled on the familiar topic of whether we would ever feed the cats again. We concluded that it was possible they might eat this week, because we ordered special food promoting anal gland health and it was due to arrive on October 4th.  My wife looked up from the growing pile of onion bits and asked, "What's today? The 2nd?" "Pfffft," I replied, always a step ahead, "it's the 1st." This is when I realized that I had to write a blog post.

"I'll cook!" I quickly offered. "I wonder if there's a scramble recipe in the new America's Test Kitchen cookbook." The book was handy, having stood patiently on the kitchen counter since it arrived months ago. I flipped to the back and found two entries under "tofu": Tofu Scramble with Bell Pepper, Shallot, and Herbs; and Tofu Scramble with Tomato and Scallions.

"We don't have any of those things," my wife stated.

I looked at the onion pile that was clearly going to be the central ingredient in whatever we would make. Then it struck me: Isa's Scrambled Tofu. We almost always had the basic ingredients for that. It starts with a ton of onions and mushrooms and ends with satisfaction, every time.  There are plenty of other days in the month for ATC:VFE. Surely my faithful audience would understand.

I helped my wife tease the first edition of Vegan with a Vengeance out of our Jenga library. (We have the new edition, too, but this exact book is the one that taught me how to cook like a human back in 2005. It's special.) Scrambled Tofu was clearly marked by a pink post it and years of accumulated scramble splatter. I asked my wife to shovel the onion pile into the pan and bid her withdraw into the parlor. I was about to follow some rules.

Having made this recipe countless times, there were few surprises. I used Wildwood firm tofu, which is a bit dry and required adding about a cup of water while simmering. I added broccoli at the same time as the tofu, and it cooked nicely. I forgot to saute the garlic with the onions, a pretty rookie mistake. I added it early into the simmering phase and no one got hurt, thank God. I definitely missed the classic tang of hot, oily garlic, but the sweeter notes of simmered garlic weren't bad.  I served it with Field Roast breakfast links and grilled toast.

Looking back at my early posts, this recipe was also the subject of the 7th blog post I ever made, during the very first VeganMoFo. So it's a good recipe to come out of retirement with.